Transport

Britain’s Elon Musk is building an electric ‘flying taxi’

By Oliver Smith 9 January 2018
Summary

Britain's Elon Musk is taking flight.

There’s something brewing in the leafy parish of Sevenoaks, just an hour outside London.

A team of engineers and industrial designers are working on what just might be the future of transportation, and will certainly be a British first.

A flying electric passenger drone, which one day might turn the 20-mile drive from central London to Heathrow airport into a brisk 12-minute flight.

It’s called Autonomous Flight, and its project masterminded by a remarkable man who’s been called Britain’s Elon Musk.

Take-off

Martin Warner is no stranger to challenges.

The serial entrepreneur previously built and sold botObjects (a 3D-printing company which claimed to have created full, real-colour printer), started Flix Premier (a streaming platform for indie movies), and has founded several other businesses in the drone delivery and inventor space.

But Autonomous Flight is his greatest challenge yet.

“The gold rush for aviation is on,” Warner told The Memo this week. “There’s an incredible opportunity to create a whole new set of vehicles.”

He’s not wrong, there are around eight companies around the world currently racing to build passenger drones.

Volocopter in Germany and the aptly-named Passenger Drone in California have both conducted test flights of VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, the vehicles they say are the future of transportation.

It’s an industry with investments worth tens of millions of dollars floating around, and a hypercompetitive industry at that.

But Warner has a cunning plan for his small British startup to not only keep up, but to compete.

Cruising speed

By the end of March Warner says Autonomous Flight will take the wraps off its first prototype, the Y6S.

This two-seater will have an 80-mile range, 70mph max speed, and will cruise at a cool 1,500ft.

While the prototype is impressive, what’s more valuable to Warner, are the designs and research going into the project.

“Our plan is to perfect our design, and then file the patents,” he says. “This is an incredibly patent-rich environment.”

Then Autonomous Flight can turn to larger corporates for the manufacturing and future investment, in fact “we’ve already started those conversations” Warner says.

Part of the reason he is so confident Autonomous Flight can overtake its rivals is because of the British engineering, simply not available anywhere else in the world.

Britain’s Elon Musk

“We don’t talk enough about British inventors and engineering,” says Warner.

“But this is a British investment – the basic engineering, the head of industrial design, and the actual build of the Y6S will all be in the UK.”

Luckily with James Dyson committed to building a British electric car, and now Autonomous Flight designing an electric British passenger drone, Warner plans to be a key player in reversing that trend.

Britain’s Elon Musk has big plans.